The Problem of Biblicism 5

Christian Smith, in his must-read and challenging book, Bible Made Impossible, The: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture, contends that what many of us (evangelicals) affirm is impossible to hold with intellectual integrity. He calls this belief “biblicism,” and if you want to read what it is read this post. The fundamental problem that undercuts biblicism as a sufficient basis for articulating the Christian faith is interpretive pluralism. That’s the big idea.

In the first three chps Smith unpacks the meaning and problem with biblicism, but he’s not done. He then pokes into nine more factors, and once again, Smith’s done a great job of making his readers say, “OK, uncle, tell me your theory.” We won’t get that today. Instead, I will sketch (briefly) nine more problems with biblicism, which can sometimes be expressed as Bible-only-ism. (Come back Monday, when I will sketch Smith’s essential approach to Bible reading.)

Can biblicism be practiced consistently? I’m particularly interested in what you think of #5 below — how the biblical passages don’t add up to the case for biblicism?

1. Blatantly ignored passages/teachings. A biblicist has no ground to dismiss or set aside or enculturate passages, but all of them — so far as I know — do just things with texts like (Smith’s examples) greeting one another with a holy kiss. C’mon, you say? Here this out: on what grounds does the biblicist dismiss such passages? Where is the hermeneutical guide? He gives other examples, including women being silent, etc.
2. Arbitrary determinations of cultural relativism: this ties to #1. Sometimes biblicists are comfortable saying something is cultural, like women being silent, eating pork, covering heads, etc.. But what is the ground if biblicism is right?
3. Strange passages, and here he pokes at Titus 1:12-13 where Paul, at the least, trades in a less than noble form of ethnic stereotyping — all Cretans? always? lazy? liars? Always? really? Or the Nephilim of Gen 6:1-4.
4. Populist and expert practices diverge from biblicistic principles: far too often people find what they already believe instead of finding what is there. He refers there to some serious scholarship examining just this (Bielo and Bartkowski).
5. Lack of biblical self-attestation. The most important texts on the Bible — John 10:35, Rom 15:4, 1 Tim 4:13, 2 Tim 3:15-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21 — do not add up to biblicism but to divine inspiration. It requires supplementary arguments to get from such texts to how biblicism frames things (see the link in the first paragraph to this post to see the ten items).
6. The genuine need for extrabiblical theological concepts: you can’t find things just in the Bible that are central to the faith of orthodox Christianity. Trinity, etc.
7. The Bible-only-ism approach was first put into the circuit by Enlightenment liberals, and it was designed to attack creedal orthodoxy, and it is now embraced — in almost the same forms (see Noll, Hatch) by biblicist evangelicals.
8. The biblicist framework has never been able to adduce a solid comprehensive social ethic, and this is one reason it has been both so absent and built at times on thin foundations.
9. Pastoral: the biblicist model, when encountering non-biblicists of both a liberal or more creedal form, leads to crises, sometimes to abandoning the faith.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Matt

    You’ve just encouraged me today Scott. I’m 24 and graduated from a Baptist Bible college a couple years back. Favorite course was hermeneutics. It began a journey that helped me see the Bible in a completely new way. Before this morning I had never seen the word biblicism, though for a few years now I have been slowly seeing something like this among evangelicals. But I would say biblicism is the main stream approach to my denomination (Southern Baptist), hence the reason I haven’t about it until now. It encourages me to know many many Christians out there are not follow this approach to Scripture and see the damage it can cause, has caused, and does cause. In fact it’s wild to me that it seems your surprised that so many people believe in biblicism from my perspective! Enjoy reading your stuff. Keep it up.

  • DanS

    Too much here to tackle. My sense is I would probably agree with Christian Smith on many things and acknowledge validity to many of his concerns, but I just see so many places to push back.

    Ignored texts? As if liberals, medieval scholars, emergents don’t blatantly ignore texts. So why is this a problem directly linked to biblicism?

    Cultural relativism. Is eating pork really an example? Did not God pretty much command Peter to move away from those Old Testament laws?

    Finding what we want in scripture. Please. This is a universal problem, not a direct result of “biblicism”.

    I could go on. Again, I don’t disagree that there are problems with “me and my Bible”. Nor am I assuming I will disagree with the proposed remedy. I just don’t think all the ills described are directly caused by a belief that scripture is inerrant and has a measure of perspicuity. I think most of the ills have other causes, primarily human rebellion and intellectual weakness.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Christian (and Scot), I have enjoyed this book more than any other I have read recently, thanks so much.

    DanS, you are making the mistake of trying to compare biblicism to something else in each of those arguments. The approach here in this post and up to this point in the book is not to compare biblicism to “liberals, medieval scholars, emergents ” as you say. You are actually exemplifying one of his points. You are trying to read this post, and probably the bible, to find confirmation for what you believe instead of encountering what is said on its own.

    Again, look at what he is saying about biblicism on its own.

  • Dans

    No. DRT, that is not my point. My point is that the problems identified are not necessarily cause-effect related to Biblicism. My citing other examples from other traditions is intended as evidence that the cause-effect relationship isn’t quite so cut and dried. It is possible to believe in inerrancy and perspicuity and not make the errors described, likewise others make the same errors without being “biblicist”. Some of the errors may have other causes and some may not be errors at all when examined a bit more.

    I actually am much in favor of getting “Biblicists” to read scripture with a good bit of guidance from church history and I’m opposed to “me-and-my-bible” approaches that completely cut away from tradition – but I want to avoid cutting off a limb to cure a rash.

  • Amos Paul

    I agree with DanS here, but probably to an even greater extent.

    Popular practices diverging from actual principles?

    Using Scripture to confirm some pre-determined beliefs?

    Ignoring passages?

    Seemingly arbitrary ethical and relative determinations?

    Lack of your primary source confirmining your methodology?

    Show me a Christian group that doesn’t encounter these problems and more. It is also unfair to critique a method without any mention of the Holy Spirit and in what manner He is trusted. This is crucial to the faith.

  • http://www.abcwesterville.org Mark Farmer

    Regarding Point 5,
    1. Even if there were stronger biblical self-attestation, one would still need to evaluate whether such self attestation is clear, accurate and exact. Just because a work claims to be inspired doesn’t make it so.
    2. The Bible as such did not exist until long after its component books were written. It is a an ontological impossibility for the Bible to make claims for itself. No biblical author knew which books would be in the canon.
    3. Taking the humanness of the Bible seriously would mean carefully examining the processes by which it came into being. These human processes would inform the nature of the “inspiration.”
    4. Does anyone really know what the author of 2 Timothy 3:16 meant by “Inspired/God-breathed”? If not, how can a doctrine of Scripture be built on it and similar passages?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    DanS, he is not trying to have a cause-effect relationship. He is showing that the actual behavior is inconsistant with the idea of biblicism. So in the case of ignoring texts, he is showing that biblicism does not offer a reason to ignore texts, but biblicists do ignore texts, therefore the premise of biblicism is false.

    I don’t think the emergents make the same claims about the texts as biblicists do so they are not suffing the hypocracy of the biblicist.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Amos and Dans, yes there are other groups that do those things, but it is the biblicists that say they are not doing them but then do it any way.

  • Fish

    Of course those problems are found outside biblicism.

    The difference is that in biblicism they are applied to the word of God as a way of instructing us on what God wants, with our salvation in the balance.

    If I am going to be told a book is the literal inerrant word of God, then I am stupid if I do not hold the teaching of the person who tells me that to a far higher standard that I would in any other field of study.

    If a human is going to read the Word and then presume to speak for God based on it, that person had better be more perfect in their analysis than any scientist or history teacher.

  • http://www.dualravens.com/ravens Patrick O

    What’s funny is that it was in a a class on, and supporting, inerrancy, that I came to many of these same conclusions.

    Adding to what DRT said, it’s not that there aren’t others who do the same things. It’s precisely that so many biblicists deride these other people for not taking the Bible in a certain way. They assert a standard they don’t follow.

    The difference is, though, that most biblicists won’t explicitly dismiss or contradict a passage. In my experience, the passages they don’t like are simply ignored or intentionally forgotten.

    What’s also interesting to me is that it’s precisely because of the Bible, and my intent to take it seriously, that I moved in emergent directions. In other words, I’ve become emergent in my ecclesiology because of my Fundamentalist roots, not in spite of it. Especially as I’ve realized how many passages were ignored or dismissed in the service of maintaining established power structures.

    Most biblicists, in my experience, have a very deficient biblical response to the broader work of the Spirit. Unfortunately, though, most emergents/etc. (this present blog being a very notable exception) have ceded the very biblical arguments that take more, not less, seriously many important passages about the church, mission, and broad participation.

  • dopderbeck

    An equally strong argument re: 5 IMHO is the way the Bible uses itself — the famous “NT use of the OT” issue. How can Biblicism be true if the Apostolic NT authors often used the OT in ways that exceed the “original intent” of the OT authors?

  • Amos Paul

    DRT,

    The question is whether or not Biblicism can be practiced consistently. Being internally consistent is *different* than being actually truthful, honest, or correct. If many of these problems apply equally well to Biblicism and other perspectives, than they are basic problems of consistency in general with respecting the Bible in regard to your doctrine (Whether that respect be Sola, Prima, or simply Very Important).

    Thus, I stated that much of the list is not doing a very good job of outling the consistency problem(s) of *specifically* ‘Biblicism’.

    Indeed, the problems I pointed out in my post generally sound like they arise from popular level Christians not be as careful in their views, practices, and justifications as they otherwise could be. A serious Biblicist might not even appear to encounter such problems if you let them unpack their view in relation to Scripture.

    A few specific and devastating problems inherent to a view is much more effective than a bunch of general problems.

  • Bill

    Great post. I hope to read this book soon. Inerrancy almost caused me to lose my faith when I was a young Christian. I am surprised what I hear about the Bible from the pulpit sometimes, but I also hear some people admitting that they cannot accept some verses.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Amos Paul, you are not playing the game being played. Christian has not brought in an alternative to which biblicism can be compared. He is simply critiquing biblicism. The question is, are these critiques valid of biblicism. I say emphatically yes.

    As Scot says in the post, he does a really good job of making me want to get to his theory so we can compare is rebuttle of biblicism with something else. But we don’t have that something else yet.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Amos Paul, let me give you a devastating problem. Biblicism pretty much drove me away from Christianity for more than a decade. I could not buy in with the hipocrisy invovled. I think Bill immediately above makes the same point.

    Christian is simply outlining the specifics of the issues. The devastating problem is that many, well, at least me, view it as intellectually dishonest.

  • Amos Paul

    DRT,

    I’m not a Biblicist. I’m simply a fan of careful argumentation. I would rather have specific philosophical problems or inconsistent examples addressed because, when I read the list, I can easily imagine several responses from Biblicists concering the consistency of their views on that point.

    Your experience with ‘Biblicism’ is unfortunate and, indeed, part of why I wouldn’t espouse such a view. But please keep in mind that if you want to discuss the issues of Biblicism with a Biblicist, you’d likely want to be equipped with a peaceful spirit and reasonably specific points to cite why you don’t, personally, agree with their view.

  • Jon G

    For me point #6 is something I’ve been really struggling with. It totally makes sense that extrabiblical sources are necessary and, clearly, we won’t get everything out of the Bible without them, but in what CAN we find some sure footing if not Scripture? What is actually infallible? And if nothing is, then how can we know, for certain, any truths about God?

    I should say, I’m not yet a believer in church tradition or creeds as the hermenuetic on which I want to build my beliefs…so what else can I depend on?

    But I do see all the problems this series is exposing about Biblicism – I don’t want to deny that. Thanks for the post, Scot!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Sage advice Amos, part of why I like this book is because it is helping me to break it down into those ideas for which I can have a calm outlook. Up until now when confronted with strong biblicism I just look at them and think it should be obvious why this is messed up.

  • waylon

    Given that biblicism does have consistency problems, could this be a reason for re-evaluating the place of creedal statements in the church? we need to agree on guidelines within which we as a community read Scripture.

  • Paul Johnston

    A crucial subject for Protestantism, particularly the “low church” communities that stress biblical fidelity.

    Rather than assuming modern Protestantism is still a counter reaction to Catholic traditions, perhaps Protestantism has become an “in house” debate amongst it’s own communities.

    While the origional promise of the Enlightenment, through Biblical exegesis, seemed to offer the hope of the ancient voice of scripture being truthfully heard through time, the opposite seems to have occured. Disections and redisections of the word and the never ending search for accurate historical documentation to define context, has led to an ever increasing and often contradictory “biblicist” perspective.

    A fair analysis of the history of the American evangelical movement would likely show it to be a counter reaction to Protestant liberal exegesis, than it ever was a response and rejection of Catholic traditions. Fundamentalism was the evangelical response to the inconsistencies and contradictions of Protestant “biblical” methodologies. Simple and literal interpretation held sway over detailed analysis. The problem being, what defines and who defines what is simple, what is literal.

    Any metaphysical response to life as we know it that devorces itself from the structures of tradition, be they creeds, laws or customs, is a country without a constitution, a nation with no idea of itself or it’s direction going forward. A community with no internal means of correcting itself when beset with problems.

    However you slice it, the sooner American biblical Christians understand that a commitment to a creed is no more an anathema to faith, than their commitment to the U.S. constitution is an anathema to citizenship in their country, the sooner the Body of Christ can begin a more effective world wide reconcilliation.

  • DanS

    Paul #20. I agree with your conclusion. I want evangelicals to be more Creedal, to listen to the exegetes of the past.

    I do not mean to minimize the pluralism. I once studied my childhood Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Presbyterianism and Anglicanism looking for a cure for the pluralism. But in the end, I found other traditions no less problematic. That is why I push back a bit on this issue.

    I still have trouble throwing out the baby with the bathwater. If biblicists insist that inerrancy means scripture is equally clear in all matters, or that perspicuity means all honest readers will see all issues the same way, then doctrinal pluralism contradicts such “biblicism”.

    But if inerrancy and perspicuity mean scripture is clear enough on matters essential to salvation for an honest reader to understand enough to be saved, then doctrinal pluralism regarding head coverings or leadership structures does not dismantle the underpinnings of the local bible church.

    Every conservative church I’ve been in has a limited doctrinal statement that includes a belief in inerrancy, a statement of orthodox trinitarianism and Christology, and an affirmation of the Protestant solas. On essentials – unity. Most work with other denominations on other matters even if they may disagree on lesser doctrinal issues. Yes, we can learn a lot from seeking a broader consensus on many issues. But the consensus has to be about what scripture says, not about what it doesn’t say – that is the meaning of Canon.

    Perhaps this quote from Augustine will be relevant…

    “I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand (Letters of St. Augustine 82.3).

    If that is “Biblicism”, count me in.

  • Chris

    @DanS @DLT et al. Surely the question here is not whether or not biblicism is practiced – that is, whether biblicists are hypocrites (they surely are to some degree, as are all Christians: upholding a standard which we cannot wholly live up to). The question is whether or not biblicism *can* be practiced – that is, whether it is an internally consistent system of thought. I think Christian is arguing that even if someone were prepared to be utterly faithful in every regard to a biblicist reading of Scripture, it would be impossible to do so. Or, to put it the other way around: biblicism is inherently self-contradictory. Am I understanding him right? And if I am, is he right? That seems to me to be the crucial issue here.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Chris#22, that was my point, though I probably did not say it well enough given your post. I am saying that biblicism itself is hypocritical, or as you say, self contradictory.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    DanS, while on the surface what you say makes sense (“But if inerrancy and perspicuity mean scripture is clear enough on matters essential to salvation for an honest reader to understand enough to be saved”), but I am now thinking it actually prevents people from being saved.

    Much like Jesus scolded the Pharisees, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”, I think the Biblicists are actually doing that. The other post today where some apparently educated and well liked Biblicist is touting that America is better than everyone and the biggest problem facing our children is abortion is exactly the problem that is created.

    I contend that the subject of the other post has the potential to create great sin in our world and that is not what I want to have on my record come judgment day. It is an excellent example.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I have been patient so far and have not read ahead to get to C. Smith’s proposal, but I can’t wait anymore, off to read!

  • http://earliestchristianity.wordpress.com/ Tim

    I would echo much of what Patrick in #10 said about those using the “other Christians do what Smith is critiquing, too” tactic. That’s exactly Smith’s point – liberals, etc. don’t claim that the Bible is a perspicuous, inerrant book containing the very words of God. I’ve read the whole book and started my own review of it at my blog, though I doubt it will be as extensive as Scot’s is. Thanks, Scot, for this series!

    @Chris in #22 – Yes, that’s exactly Smith’s point!

  • Taylor

    Amos,

    I’m impressed with you line of thought.

    DRT,

    It sounds as if you’re laying the blame more on broken people and a system in as much as it is descriptive of people who drove you away.

    Both (and anyone else who cares),

    Without using the ‘other traditions do it too’ tactic, I would argue that biblicism is not the issue. A combination of sin and not-omniscience is. That combo keeps us from admitting things we don’t want to see in Scripture whether we are biblicist or not. It also encourages us to emphasize minor, difficult truths that we may not fully grasp as if we had mastered them.

    The only real difference is that biblicists have no intellectual excuse. In that regard I favor biblicism. Unfortunately, in attempting to criticize a philosophy by attacking every potential element of it, including points only held by a certain lunatic fringe, Smith has apparently created a non-existent enemy we can all pin our frustrations with biblical conservatism on.

    That’s unfair because there’s no one left to defend this idea of biblicism. It’s unfortunate because I’d be much happier reading a solid criticism of a set of truths to which I actually ascribe. Instead I am losing a term that used to describe me to a group of people I have run across rarely, if ever.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Taylor, I am not sure what all you mean by your comment of my blaming others, but let me say this: The methods, approach and conclusions of people who had such a method did not make rational sense to me and I could not ascribe to them. When I spent time researching other methods, approaches and conclusions I could not come across one with which I could feel intellectually honest. They usually resorted to things such as saying “gods ways are greater than ours” and “where is your faith”. Well, my faith is not in the plethora of teachings that seems suspect about god, so I went elsewhere.

    Does that mean the people where broken? Absolutely. Does it mean that they did not have the whole story and I rejected them? Yes.

    But if all you have is broken people and a broken story about something that makes absolutely no sense, then why would I possibly follow that? Is that what you are saying Taylor?

    I did not find something that made sense until I stumbled on to Tom Wright and his perspective of the thing. Until that point I thought Christianity would be all washed up because it made no sense. Do you feel that it has to make sense for us to believe in it? I do.

    So, I can’t tell if I am agreeing with you or not. All I know is that the biblicist approach could not make sense to me and I am grateful that we are going beyond it.

  • http://earliestchristianity.wordpress.com/ Tim

    Taylor (#27) – Smith is not attempting to refute “points only held by a certain lunatic fringe,” so I wouldn’t fall back on that as any sort of rebuttal. To which points specifically were you referring?

  • Taylor

    DRT,

    I don’t think we’re agreeing, and its at a basic philosophical level. Without getting too nuanced, let’s just take the statement, ‘God’s ways are higher than our ways.’

    This has, of course, been used many times in the most unfortunate ways possible. My second son died at 6 weeks, so I think I can empathize with that truth better than your average disenchanted intellectual. I would be more than okay with striking that term from the Christian dictionary entirely.

    But here’s the thing. We love to claim intellectual dishonesty every time we hear it, and sometimes, maybe many times, that’s the case. But what about the alternative?

    Here’s why I dislike the term ‘intellectual honesty.’ Whether you intended to or not, you just based your argument for Tom wright’s perspective on two things. Your ways, and the lack of intellect you attribute to anyone willing to let certain tensions lie based on a biblically conservative world view.

    I’m still left with a final authority. That authority has simply changed to accommodate my perceptions of what does and doesn’t make sense. It becomes either someone on a blog who challenges that it is possible to be a thinking person and accept mystery, or myself, or a teacher who manages to put the Bible into some systematic format (see, systematizing our theology isn’t just for biblicists) that makes rational sense to the average 21st century person.

    So, to answer your final question, do I feel that it has to make sense for us to believe in it? Yes. And at the same time a resounding no. Some things just don’t make sense, no matter what system I ascribe to. So it makes just as much sense to assume that God really is bigger than my understanding as to assume anything else.

    It’s unfair to assume that what doesn’t work for you must be false. Or for me. Which gets back to the idea that there are hundreds of factors outside of a biblicist creed if you will (: that can lead to the diversity found among so-called biblicists. Most of which lie with mankind’s constant assumption that he or she is truly intellectual while those who disagree must not be able to think critically. Which then leaves us with the possibility that biblicism itself might not be the piece of the puzzle that’s wrong.

  • Taylor

    Tim,

    Points 2-6, 8, and 10 when taken to their extremes do not very accurately represent mainstream biblicism. There are elements of truth in each of these precepts, but they seem to be gross caricatures of the way most well known, well respected biblicists actually approach the Bible. I read these 10 principles and my thoughts automatically go to the worst church I ever visited, even though my own church would be considered biblicist.

    To save on space, I would recommend reading Kevin Deyoung’s review of the book. It was, at times, quite a bit less gracious than Kevin usually is, but it did serve to point out a few inconsistencies in the book and note specific areas where it seems like Smith is arguing against a non-existent group in terms of respected biblicists.

    The importance of accurately portraying the principles behind biblicism in their best, most faithful senses, is that a critique of careful, scholarly biblicism merits reading. No one really needs a critique of the people who twist biblicism to make the bible say whatever they want. We don’t care for that any more than the rest of the world does.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Taylor, I concede there will always be things that are unknowable.

    But you are still operating from the principle that one should adopt the beliefs of a group. Your “final authority” argument is appealing to someone else’s authority and not your own. You also say that my ideas have to come from a blog or someone else, and you don’t say this next part but it seems implicit in your approach, whom I then follow.

    And in your final paragraph you again miss the point entirely. I am not saying that the Biblicist beliefs cause diversity of opinion, the idea is that the fact there is such a large diversity says that the claim to non-diversity of Biblicists is inherently wrong. The Biblicist message is that we can know and do know the truth and one message being taught and by their behavior that have proven that that is a false premise. It is not cause and effect, it is maintaining an irrational belief in the face of the obvious.

    Also, given your outlook, how does one possibly make the choice about who they should study or with which religion they should belong. By your arguments you should just stay with a slave owning, misogynizing, brotherly kissing, no hat wearing etc church because there are always things that don’t make sense to us.

    Taylor, I feel that the perspective you advocate makes cults, not churches. We cannot teach people that they just have to believe what their group thinks. It does not work.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Taylor, one more clarification. I don’t think biblicism necessarily causes diversity in belief, though it could, for example teaching perspecuity could lead people to think their interpretation has to be right, by definition.

    Rather, the bigger issue is that given a diversity of beliefs, the biblicism causes fracturing of the body.

  • Taylor

    DRT,

    I’ll probably bow out after this point. I’m trying to approach the philosophy behind belief. You are, not incorrectly, criticizing the results of a theological system. I think that needs to come after understanding the system, otherwise one begins to make accusations about an adherent’s end result as if those were the problems rather than the evidence of problems.

    My ‘final authority’ argument is appealing to Someone besides myself. I am not appealing to anyone to adopt the beliefs of a group through that argument. I am simply pointing out that biblicism by intent (whether or not in practice) assumes the authority belongs to God, and that He was competent enough to communicate that truth in a supercultural fashion through the Bible.

    Your appeal was to Tom Wright’s authority first, and then your own because he(italics) made it make to you(also italics). Your implication was that if the Christian system didn’t make sense to you it wouldn’t be true. I like Tom Wright, but he isn’t my starting point, he’s an aid for my study of the Book I do consider foundational.

    But, the bottom line is that simply accusing everyone who holds to a biblicist view of being a slave owning woman hater isn’t anymore gracious or Christocentric than it is for me to try and defend myself. As a biblicist, it doesn’t sit well with me considering the passages on unity. So, as a biblicist, I’m sorry for the ungracious, ironically unbiblical, impression we have so clearly given you.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Well, thanks for playing Taylor, but there are couple things that are a big gap for us. First, you are assuming that if Christianity does not make sense to me then I would no longer believe in what Jesus did. That is not true. I view Christianity as separate from my belief. Christianity is simply a religion.

    I still think you are doing exactly what C. Smith’s book is about. You are vesting authority in the bible with a biblicist framework and then claim the bible as a higher authority. It is not, Jesus is.

    Frankly, I think Buddhism is a better expression of Jesus in our world than many Christian churches. That is how I see the authority, not the book working.

  • Taylor

    How then does Jesus name Himself a fulfillment of the book (Matt 5:17)? He doesn’t claim to supplant the Word, /he claims to complete it. So, I wholeheartedly agree with a Christocentric reading of the Bible. But in doing so, I see Jesus giving the words authority, not because of themselves, but because of the One who gave them.

    Regarding Buddhism; I hear that alot. I even used to say so myself. Living in a predominantly Buddhist country has changed my impression from the American pop-religion of peace that those unfamiliar with Buddhism en masse sometimes have. Ironically, Buddhists have martyred more Christians than vice versa (significantly more, possibly as many as 1,650,000 to 1).

  • Ryan S.

    @Taylor 36

    Bad argument. Jesus never argues that he is the fulfillment of the a book but the Torah. The difficulty comes in pretty quickly. We can both agree that Jesus takes Torah seriously, but he gives no mandate to take anything else seriously in that passage. By generalizing instead of trying to figure out precisely what he means you miss the point. You have to grasp where Jesus was in history and within the unfolding salvation history to get what he’s saying.

    Also if you look in Matthew, Jesus continually says, “It has been said…” and then makes claim that his authority surpasses that of the Old Testament. No where more clearly does he make the claim then when he says, “but someone greater than Moses is here.” For Jews in that time they would have assumed that that referred to the writing of Moses, “The Torah.” Read NT Wright, he makes the case that Jesus is supplanting allegiance to the Torah with allegiance to him (not saying the Torah is not truthful and God’s word, but its not the boundary marker it used to be).

  • Taylor

    Ryan,

    Fair enough, I should have further substantiated. In referring to the Torah, Jesus does present a basis for giving Scripture authority. He also states that the law and prophets can be summed up in 2 commandments, again, I would say validating more of Scripture.

    That still does nothing more than give us an precedent for authority in much of the OT, but I think it is a legitimate start to answering DRT. Jesus is the culmination of Scripture, but I don’t see that as taking away from from the authority of Scripture, rather I view it as giving us a lens through which to view it. In other words, Scripture is authoritative inasmuch as it is the means which God has provided us to see Jesus.

    As to anything beyond the law and the prophets, I think that if we concede that Scripture is Scripture, we can apply the same principle in that the New Testament shows us how Christ fulfills the Law, and how that affects our lives. Granted, that more or less comes down to trusting the Spirit and church fathers canonization, which is a presupposition that I willingly concede.

    Thanks for the challenge. Keep them coming.

  • Ryan S.

    Taylor,

    I think we are closer than I thought. I would just probably make the case that the Bible is both narrative and propositional. So it doesn’t teach a whole bunch of “principles” as much as it invites into the continuing story of what God is doing in the world.

    This I think makes better sense and offers continuity with the Fathers. Um, one thing I’ve noticed particularly in folks that are extremely conservative evangelicals/fundamentalists (not saying that you are), is that they almost impose a disconnect between Christian life lived in the New Testament and Christian life lived now. By that I mean their approach to Scripture as truthful is good, but it sort of misses the point because it doesn’t really look at the way the early church used Scripture (they didn’t use it as an answer book).

    If you instead see the Church Fathers as being a continuation of that early church and attempting to provide some “loose” guidelines for canonization etc., it fits within the wider narrative.

    But again I think Christian Smith would likely have to end up with a narrative framework to put everything together, it allows width and plurality but also demands binding truths.


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